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Nat Rev Immunol. 2013 Feb;13(2):101-17. doi: 10.1038/nri3369. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

Invariant natural killer T cells: an innate activation scheme linked to diverse effector functions.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells exist in a 'poised effector' state, which enables them to rapidly produce cytokines following activation. Using a nearly monospecific T cell receptor, they recognize self and foreign lipid antigens presented by CD1d in a conserved manner, but their activation can catalyse a spectrum of polarized immune responses. In this Review, we discuss recent advances in our understanding of the innate-like mechanisms underlying iNKT cell activation and describe how lipid antigens, the inflammatory milieu and interactions with other immune cell subsets regulate the functions of iNKT cells in health and disease.

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